Yes, folks, you read right! I chose to cloth diaper our firstborn child. Although I have momentarily regretted this decision at times, at the end of the day it was the right choice for our family!
As I reflect on the last 6 months of cloth diapering, I can’t help but ask myself the following questions:
What is something you wish you had known when you started cloth diapering? What are some things you have learned along the way?
Thus, I decided to share with you the answers I have to these questions! Cloth diapering used to be the norm until disposable diapers were created in 1946 by Marion Donovan. Cloth diapering has come a LONG ways though. I think about what the cloth diapers looked like when my husband was diapered back in the 80’s and can’t believe how that process has changed today! Now, there are many different types of cloth diapers and a person has to know the names of liners, covers, prefolds, fitteds, AIO’s (All In One), etc. Here is the advice I have to guide you through the world of cloth diapering your little one(s):
1) Give yourself time to learn.
There is definitely a learning curve of deciding if this is right for you, weeding out what is wrong for you (that may come first), a washing routine that works, and what diapers and liners work when.
2) Refrain from giving up.
As stated already, there is a learning curve! At some point, you WILL want to give up. You WILL be overwhelmed, not just with cloth diapering but learning how to be a parent. The feelings of being overwhelmed and having just too much on your plate will come and go in the beginning. I can promise you this- You are not the only one to have felt this way and it WILL get better.
3) Find a support group.
My family had never done cloth diapers. My in-laws chose not to do cloth diapers with our 9 nieces and nephews. I had support from all of them, but they didn’t have the advice and support I needed from someone who understood what cloth diapering today looks like. Find people who are currently cloth diapering or have recently.
I found 2 support groups on Facebook. One, local to my area, was a great way to buy pre-loved diapers. The other group was a cloth diaper support group and I learned a ton just by reading questions people had and the advice given. This prepared me for challenges that I didn’t even know would come up, such as how to strip a diaper (I used a few drops of dawn and a bit of vinegar, soak for 2 hours) when they start to repel urine.
4) Washing and preparing cloth diapers doesn't have to be as complicated as a lot of people make it out to be.
If you choose to join support groups via social networking, you will see a lot of questions about the wash routine (what works, what doesn’t, soaps, stripping, etc). Be patient with yourself, there is a routine that will work for you but may not work for someone else! I personally have found that you should stick to a wash routine for at least a week before you decide if it works. Sometimes, switching routine regularly could actually be the problem. This case seems to be especially true if you keep changing the soaps you are using.
5) Don’t confuse support groups with doctors and your gut feeling.
Support groups can sometimes inundate you with advice. Everyone really does want to help and will give you their best insight. This said, we must all keep in mind that support groups are NOT doctors. More importantly, if your gut is telling you something else, you are probably on to something. Just because you are new to cloth diapering doesn’t mean you know nothing. Follow your gut and use doctors when necessary.
A specific instance I am thinking of is that someone posted a picture of a rash on their child’s bottom inquiring what the rash was. Majority said yeast infection and gave advice to cure. A few people said Staph Infection and take child to doctor immediately. In this case, the child had Staff infection. Everyone in that conversation meant well, but honestly, even the pros don’t always know the answer! You ultimately have to decide.
6) Cloth diapering is much easier than it appears to be when you start researching it on the internet.
I am repeatedly using the word overwhelming, because CLOTH DIAPERING IS OVERWHELMING. I remember sitting at the computer researching all the types of cloth diapers and thinking, “I am not going to survive this.” All the information is hard to take in. Give yourself time. Watch YouTube videos on other people’s daily routines. Educate yourself on the types of cloth diapers and lingo that everyone in your support group uses. Start watching support group questions and answers to get some insight to cloth diapering.
7) Make a plan and plan to stick to it.
The best advice I have is to create a visualization for yourself on what you think a typical day (or week) of cloth diapering will look like for you. Decide on what diapers you will use and be trying. Maybe this means you will rent diapers from a local company until you know what works. Maybe you will just buy some diapers and pray for the best (I took this route and it worked GREAT). Be prepared for your idea of a regular routine to not entirely match reality (such as you may have to wash diapers every 2 days instead of every 3), but this will help you to feel prepared to start diapering.
The biggest dilemma (or argument) you will see on support groups is the question of having those tempting disposables around. I think only you can answer this. We had them around for times when rashes were so bad that ointments that weren’t cloth friendly needed to be used. We also didn’t plan well in the beginning and would run out of cloth diapers while washing all the dirty ones. I was comforted knowing I had them to fall back on but others think if you have them you will always turn to them first.
What would you do if you had a pile of cloth and disposable diapers to choose from? Decide your plan based on that answer.
8) You can change your mind about which diapers work.
Sometimes, a diaper will work for a short period of time and then you decide you don’t love it. I had a cover that I absolutely loved and then my little one had a slight growth spurt and it instantly didn’t seem to work as well for me. That is OKAY. The good news is, unlike disposables, cloth diapers hold their value very well. You can always sell anything that doesn’t work and buy something else.
9) Cloth diapering is very addicting. Plan for this.
I consider myself to be extremely frugal, yet I fell into this trap. Be aware that even looking at cloth diapers that are for sell may make you begin to want, want, want! There are so many cute designs out there! You may also want to stock up on the style and brand of diapers that work for you. Just remember, what works for you right now may not be what works for you in 2 weeks!
My advice is to set a budget and make sure you are disciplined to stay within that budget. If you struggle sticking to a budget, you may want to make sure you stay away from sites that are selling diapers all together. My biggest downfall was the cloth diaper swap sites on Facebook. There are constantly amazing bargains on there, but keep in mind that several cheaply priced diapers will add up quickly!
10) Even using a few cloth diapers each day can save you $MONEY$.
If you end up deciding you don’t want to go full force with using cloth diapers, consider using even a few diapers a day. For instance, there are some people who use cloth only at night. Even 2-4 diapers a night saves 14-28 disposable diapers a week. This could save anywhere from $3-10 a week, depending on the diapers you use. Every little bit helps!
11) Consider using cloth wipes.
I didn’t start using cloth wipes until our little one was about 3 months old. Boy, do I wish I had done it sooner. This is the easiest thing and you wash the wipes right with your cloth diapers! You can purchase wipes or make your own. My husband (God bless him) is the sewer in our house. We cut up a small, cotton blanket and he sewed just along all 4 sides to keep the material from fraying. But an even easier solution we did was cut up an old pair of polyester Old Navy pajama pants that I had into small squares. This material didn’t require any sewing and I have had 0 problems with fraying in the 6 months we have been using them.
If you search the internet, you can find thousands of recipes for a wipe solution. I was switching my solution recipe so much in search of the “perfect” fit that I think I caused more harm (in terms of rashes) than I did good. Now, my solution consists of water and a drop of tea tree oil. It doesn’t get much easier than that my friends!
12) Making items for your baby is easier than you think and can save you even more $MONEY$.
There are several items in my collection of cloth diapers that are homemade. I just discussed the cloth wipes, all that I use are homemade. My mother-in-law stayed with us for a few weeks when I went back to work to give us two extra weeks of no daycare (God bless her) and she came up with a great idea! She took old towels and cut them to preferred liner size and then sewing around the 4 corners to keep the towels from fraying. This was such a blessing! I use these in my pockets (just put right in the pocket) with an Alva bamboo liner and haven’t had a leak in months! Who would have thought?
My husband (he gets his sewing skills from his mom obviously) also bought some fleece material (cost less than $3) and sewed me 12 liners to use. These come in handy now when I am putting ointments that are not cloth friendly on our little one. I just put this liner between our little one and the cloth diaper to keep the cloth diaper from getting that ointment on it.
There you have it! This is what I wish I would have known prior to starting. By the end of 6 months of cloth diapering, I feel like an expert on diapering my daughter. Rest assured, I am fully confident you will as well when you get to this point.
For all you pros out there: What lessons learned advice do you have that I missed?